Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Angelique, 17, dreams of being a florist. With her mum in prison, she is left to navigate her way through adulthood, the care system and the recurring threat from her boyfriend’s gang. Part poetry, part play, part floristry masterclass, Funeral Flowers draws on real stories in exploring the voice of young people caught within the system.
Angelique loves flowers, she admires her college tutor (a noted modern florist) and her foster mum – both strong sorted women who care for her. Angelique is at her happiest telling us about her favourite flowers and their symbolism – a potent image of the benefits of investing time in motivating troubled young people.
Angelique loves her mum but her mum can’t get it together to support her and while her mum is in prison Angelique has to look out for herself. Growing up fast is a phrase often used to describe teenagers in Angelique’s position – shorthand for having no choice but to cope with challenging situations without the guidance and care of a parent. Unsurprisingly mistakes get made and sadly for Angelique her ‘boyfriend’ Micky is only looking out for number one. Part of a gang he draws Angelique to the attentions of the deeply unpleasant gang leader. We see these stories on the news but for most of us they are abstract events; this play successfully weaves several true life case histories into a heartfelt story.
Funeral Flowers is written and performed by Emma Dennis-Edwards (an alumni of the Royal Court Writers Programme).The text has many colloquial words and phrases which for a chunk of the audience won’t be familiar but that doesn’t matter – Dennis-Edward’s performance (of all characters in the play) is strong and unequivocal so we always get the meaning. As the playwright she uses considerable skill to show how Angelique is victimised but is not a victim.
It is billed as a site-specific theatre and the use of the location (a real Edinburgh flat) is spot on. At one point the audience (15 maximum per performance) are lined up down a corridor, hemmed in to witness a stand up row between Angelique and her foster mum. At a party Angelique sits amongst the audience, knees practically touching, as she haltingly describes how yet again Micky has let her down so terribly she can barely speak above a whisper. The director (Rachel Nwokoro) has made some great choices to physically demonstrate Angelique’s state of mind. Importantly for the audience it is not all grim and the uplifting moments are nicely done too.
Given the location technical options are limited so the company make a virtue of this. There is a sound and light plot but done so that we can how it is done, the bones exposed.
The performance occasionally changes overtly into verse, Dennis-Edwards could emphasise that more (the production is described as part poetry/part play) but otherwise this is a powerhouse of a performance of a painful but much needed piece of theatre.
Funeral Flowers is one of four plays by women, about women performed by women which form the Power Play showcase as part of the Pleasance programme. All four take place in the same Edinburgh flat on Broughton Street. All four explore current and urgent concerns of women living in the UK today.
The full Power Play programme is: